Philly Op-Ed Calls On People To Address Roots Of Violence In City

Columnist Jenice Armstrong isn’t about to become a writer for Bearing Arms anytime soon. I don’t think she’d be interested in writing about the Second Amendment, at least not from the pro-side of things.


However, a recent column by her says a lot of things I’ve been talking about for the last couple of years.

Sure, she says we need gun control–everyone’s wrong about something, after all–but she goes well beyond that. She’s calling on the community of Philadelphia to work to address the root causes of violence in the City of Brotherly Love.

I’ve had it.

And if you’ve been following news reports these last few weeks about all of the children getting shot and killed, you should have had it, too. This time of year, children should be getting ready to write letters to Santa — not lying in hospital beds or, worse yet, on slabs in morgues.

We need stricter gun control legislation, but that’s not going to happen any time soon. So it’s up to us to help make our streets safer.

In other words, it’s time for Philadelphians to step up.

“Everybody just sort of says, well, what can I do?” State Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams (D., Phila.) said Thursday about the children’s deaths. “We can do a lot.”

Start by properly securing and storing all weapons in your homes. If you don’t, you’re complicit in whatever happens.

Now, it would be easy to get to this point and roll your eyes and hit the back button, but don’t. For one thing, while I disagree with someone being robbed and that somehow making them complicit in what happens afterward, it is better than you secure your weapons than not.


It’s where Armstrong goes from here that matters.

Get as fired up about the gun violence that plays out in our communities as you do in cases involving police injustice, such as when two black men were arrested at a Center City Starbucks last year. Protesters made so much noise about what occurred that the Seattle-based coffee chain took the unprecedented step of shutting down every one of its stores in North America for implicit bias training. Philly made its position known, and change happened.

Join neighborhood watch and other community groups. More of us need to support those who are similarly concerned about pushing back against gun violence. Nothing is going to change if we relax in our own little silos and wait for the government to swoop in and save the day. My colleague Solomon Jones has organized a gathering for black men called #ManUpPHL that will take place at 6 p.m. Monday at Community College of Philadelphia, Great Hall, Second Floor, 502 N. 17th St. CeaseFire PA will hold a similar gathering on Wednesday at 6 p.m. at Temple University’s Student Faculty Center, 3340 N. Broad St. I’m sure there are others in the works.

When you hear about these types of things, go. Find a way to get involved and do it.

She’s not exactly wrong.

The truth of the matter is that the secret to curbing violence is often found at addressing it before it starts. While “broken window policing” is controversial, it also dropped New York City’s crime rate significantly. That’s because it addresses violence before it ever happens. People rarely start off with violent crime. They start at much more mundane things and build up. By curbing it early, they prevented it from getting there.


Broken window policing stops violence before it happens.

But it’s also not the only way to do that. Armstrong’s call for community members to get involved and to respond to violence negatively and to work to address the conditions that lead to violence are important factors in preventing violence in the first place.

While I don’t think protests against violence are necessarily beneficial–I’ve never heard anyone say they were going to kill someone but didn’t because of a protest against violence–I do think working with young people and improving the community is important.

I’m sure Armstrong and I disagree on a whole lot of stuff, but on this, she and I see eye to eye.

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